Italy and France: Masters in Artistic Expression

Italy and France: Masters in Artistic Expression

A Smithsonian University Travel Program

The natural beauty of Italy and France is enhanced and enriched by the beauty of the artistic masterpieces they have produced. Walk through history, from the era of Michelangelo to the short and tragic life of Van Gogh. Study the art and architecture on elegant display in the museums, palaces, and streets of Rome, Florence, Venice, and Paris. As part of our Smithsonian University Travel Programs collection, this itinerary was crafted by a team of experts from WorldStrides and the Smithsonian Institution to treat students of the world to some of its most impressive works.


  • The Louvre
    Opened its doors August 10, 1793
  • Years Michelangelo Painted Sistine Chapel
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11 Days
Destinations Visited
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Your Adventure, Day by Day

Day 1 Buon Viaggio
  • Fly to Rome Enjoy your flight to Italy.
Day 2 Roma, the Heart of Italy
  • Ciao Roma Arrive in Rome, known to many as the "Eternal City" and home to an uninterrupted history, spanning two and a half thousand years.
  • Walk along the Via Appia Antica
  • Spotlight: Villa Borghese Considered one of the most beautiful museums in the world, this small building hosts a precious collection of Renaissance and Baroque works.
  • Visit the Pantheon The Pantheon is Rome's best-preserved monument and a masterpiece of architecture with its huge hemispherical dome. It also contains the tombs of the kings of Italy and that of the artist, Raphael.
  • Buon Appetito Enjoy a welcome dinner and gelato in the Piazza Navona area.
Day 3 Ancient Rome
  • Special Access: The Colosseum See this iconic amphitheater and enjoy a private tour of the underground areas and third tier of the Colosseum.
  • Ancient Roman Walk Walk in the footsteps of Ancient Romans to some of the most important sites of the fallen Empire.
  • Tour the Roman Forum Once the heart of the Empire, explore this center of Roman life.
  • Trajan's Column and Market Completed in 113 A.D. as a monument to the Emperor Trajan, the column is most famous for its spiral bas-relief. It stands in front of the market, the ancient equivalent of a shopping center, which housed no less than 150 shops and offices.
  • Piazza del Campidoglio Climb the sloping steps created by Michelangelo to Piazza del Campidoglio.
  • Visit the Capitoline Museum This museum houses one of the greatest collections of classical sculpture in the world, including the Picture Gallery, containing works from the 16th and 17th centuries by Caravaggio, Rubens, and Titian, among others.
Day 4 The Vatican
  • Guided Tour Experience a specialist-guided tour of Vatican City, including the Museums, home to one of the world's most impressive collections of art. Tour the map tapestry rooms, Raphael Rooms, and the spectacular Sistine Chapel.
  • St. Peter's Square and Basilica Explore St. Peter's Square. Visit St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the Western world and the center of Catholicism. Highlights of the visit include Michelangelo's Pieta and Bernini's magnificent Baldacchino di San Pietro. Plus, go under the necropolis searching for St Peter.
  • Optional Enhancements Go under the Vatican to see the Scavi excavations. Limited; Available only for groups of 15 or less with 6+ months advance booking.
  • Depart for Florence
Day 5 Florence, Cradle of the Renaissance
  • Explore Florence Walk through the history of Florence, so deeply connected to the Renaissance movement in art and literature that it is often called the “Cradle of the Renaissance.”
  • Ponte Vecchio Stroll along the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence’s six bridges and one of its best-loved sites. Lined with numerous shops, visitors often do not realize they are on a bridge until they reach the center arches that look out over the Arno River.
  • The Duomo Enjoy the Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral, tower, and Baptistery exhibit the traditions of Florentine art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. See inside, and then either ascend the Bell Tower, climb the narrow steps to the top of the Dome, or visit the spectacular interior of the Baptistery.
  • Spotlight: Galleria dell’Accademia View Michelangelo’s statuary masterpiece, David, and Botticelli’s Madonna and Child.
  • Special Access: Galleria degli Uffizi With a specialist guide, explore the masterpieces by great Italian artists including Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more.
Day 6 Restoring Great Art
  • Special Access: Fortezza da Basso Visit one of Italy’s foremost art restoration laboratories and watch conservators at work on a Uffizi masterpiece. (Wed. or Sat. only)
  • Train to Venice Travel by train to Venice. Built on a series of islands connected by bridges and canals, Venice has survived all odds to become the intriguing and iconic city it is today.
Day 7 Through the Canals of Venice
  • St. Mark's Square Stroll through St. Mark’s Square. Bordered by Venice’s greatest historic buildings, St. Mark’s Square is the focal point of the city and the center of its water transportation system, as well as the most popular place for people watching and picture taking.
  • Spotlight: Basilica di San Marco Take a tour of the Basilica and visit the Pandora, viewing the Horses of St. Mark's. Tour the Doge's Palace, featuring Tintoretto’s Paradise, said to be the world’s largest oil painting, and explore the secret passages of the Basilica on a special tour.
  • Bridge of Sighs Walk across the famous Bridge of Sighs to the cells where Casanova was once imprisoned.
  • Special Access: Mask Making Workshop There’s something magical about Venetian masks—something about that blend of mystery, craftsmanship, and tradition that can captivate you. Learn about the past and present of Venice’s most iconic export with this hands-on activity.
Day 8 Bonjour Paris
  • Travel to Paris Enjoy your flight to Paris.
  • Versailles Experience Versailles, a palace commissioned by Louis XIV around Louis XIII’s hunting lodge. Visit the ornate State Apartments, highlighted by the magnificent Hall of Mirrors.
  • Cruise the Seine Experience the perfect introduction to the beauty of Paris on a Seine River Cruise.
Day 9 The City of Lights
  • Arc De Triomphe Ascend the Arc de Triomphe, along the Champs-Élysées.
  • Jardin des Tuileries Walk through the Jardin des Tuileries, the Neo-Classical gardens outside the entrance to the Louvre, and continue to La Place de la Concorde for a magnificent view of the Champs-Élysées.
  • Spotlight: Louvre From its famous pyramid plaza to the acres of artwork inside, the Louvre is an art lover's paradise. Explore the famous works inside, including the Mona Lisa.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral Marvel at the cathedral in the fourth arrondissement of Paris. This architectural wonder was among the first buildings to use flying buttresses, built in the French Gothic style. Visit inside where stained glass will take your breath away, and take time to explore the façade (especially the gargoyles!).
Day 10 The Birthplace of Impressionism
  • Spotlight: Musée d'Orsay Tour this national museum and see the great diversity of artistic creation in the western world between 1848 and 1914. View the painting, sculpture, photographic, and graphic arts collections.
  • Eiffel Tower Once considered an eyesore in the skyline, the Eiffel Tower is now the most famous landmark in one of the world's most beautiful cities. Climb the structure (don't worry - there's an elevator) for an incredible view.
  • Paris Fashion Visit the elegant stores of Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette for a first-hand look at the latest trends in fashion.
  • Sacré-Coeur Explore Sacré-Coeur Basilica, a huge white church that dominates the Parisian skyline. Visit with the local artists who are often working in the streets nearby.
  • Farewell Dinner Indulge in some French specialties together as you reflect on your travel program.
Day 11 Au Revoir!
  • Depart Paris Fly home.